“You better start swimming, or you’ll sink like a stone” is one of the lines from Bob Dylan’s legendary song, The Times They Are A’Changin’.  Frankly, it is sound advice anytime that change is thrust upon you, although, admittedly, that can be quite challenging.  Oftentimes, our natural reaction to change that we encounter and did not choose for ourselves is to resist it or simply ignore it with the hope that it will dissipate and disappear on its own.  

Whether in our professional or personal lives, most unwanted changes will require us to respond in some manner to avoid even greater stress, turmoil, and negative impact.  One of the results of the horrifying pandemic has been the unexpected loss of jobs for hundreds of thousands of people in our country.  The jolt of being suddenly unemployed creates chaos in our lives.  The sense of your self-worth can be crushed, as well as a daunting fear that you will not be able to care for your family financially.  Having experienced this first-hand when my employer went out of business in 2002, I am familiar with the emotional and financial impact that this can create.

In 2002, I was far less equipped to respond appropriately to my new circumstances than in these later years. At the time, I worked for an organization whose culture and values I embraced whole-heartedly and was granted the opportunity to engage with the organization in a variety of fulfilling ways.  However, I failed to develop a larger strategy for my professional life that could have greatly benefitted me as well as the company.  Interestingly, nearly 20 years later, the strategy that was missing in my professional life is now what I do for a living, outreach: developing meaningful, trusted relationships with like-minded people.

Regardless of whether it was a 2002 or 2021 version of me (or somewhere in between), the proper response to that undesirous change is largely the same. The following steps come to mind:

  1. Assess the situation. Perhaps, conduct SWOT [Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats] analysis.
  2. Embrace the change (even if it’s NOT what you wanted) and make it work for you.
  3. Identify support. Hopefully, one of the strengths from the SWOT analysis is people who you know who would be interested in offering support and advice. It’s important to remember to think beyond those who could offer professional support, but also emotional and spiritual support. Seek out wisdom and counsel from those you trust.
  4. Consider and document what needs your attention immediately, near-term and long-term.
  5. Work on your headspace:
    • Be mindful of the results, but FOCUS on the process
    • Stay positive 
    • Manage your fear
    • Summon your courage and strength
    • Increase your awareness and openness to the possibilities
  6. Develop a plan: 
    • Remember, if it’s not written down, it is NOT a plan
    • Be strident in your adherence to the plan
    • Take calculated risks
    • Document your activities and results
    • Conduct lessons learned through the process
    • Adjust your plan as needed based on new discoveries

Undoubtedly, the initial thought of wrestling this challenge to the ground will seem daunting, but by methodically responding to your circumstances will increase your confidence and courage.  Start swimming!